Avoid These Myths About the Coronavirus

Dr. Jeanne Mazzarro, UAB. Source: UAB

Desperate times call for desperate measures, the director of UAB’s Infectious Diseases said Monday in response to a question about various rumored remedies and treatments for the coronavirus that are being bandied about.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said she has heard about supposed remedies ranging from gargling with Listerine to taking plant-based medicines.

She warned that suggested ways to avoid or treat the virus that don’t come from the medical world “are probably not credible.”

And there are many myths out there. For example:

Myth 1. A vaccine to cure coronavirus is available.

False. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that scientists have begun working on one, but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in human beings will take many months.

Myth 2. Ordering or buying things from China will give a person coronavirus.

False. Researchers are studying the new coronavirus to learn more about how it infects people. As of this writing, scientists note that most viruses such as this one do not stay alive for very long on surfaces, so it is not likely you would get COVID-19 from a package that was in transit for days or weeks. The illness is most likely transmitted by droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough, but more information is emerging daily.

Myth 3. You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by gargling with bleach, acetic acid or steroids or by using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other products. False. None of these recommendations protects you from getting COVID-19, and some may be dangerous.

Myth 4. A face mask will protect you from coronavirus.

False. Health care providers wear tight-fitting respirators, but a mask will not protect you, and it is not recommended. Because they don’t fit tightly, they may allow tiny infected droplets to get into the nose, mouth or eyes.

Myth 5: Keep your mouth moist and drink a lot of water to prevent infection.

False. There is no current scientific evidence behind the claim that keeping your mouth moist will prevent infection with coronavirus. But staying hydrated can help keep your immune system strong. The temperature of the water you drink is not important; however, drinking water and staying hydrated is important for many reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water helps your body with a number of functions, including regulating body temperature. Plus, your body requires more water when you are running a fever.

Myth 6:  If you have a runny nose, you probably just have the common cold. 

False. If you feel unwell for any reason, you should take precautions to avoid infecting others. The symptoms of coronavirus are not specific and can vary greatly.

The common cold and seasonal influenza are viral infections that can have similar, even sometimes identical, symptoms to COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Coronavirus, influenza and a common cold can present with cough and shortness of breath. Both coronavirus and influenza can cause fever as well.

Myth 7. Everyone with COVID-19 dies.

False.  COVID-19 is fatal only for a small percentage of people. In a recent report, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 80.9% of COVID-19 cases were mild.

Myth 8. Hand dryers kill coronavirus

False. Hand dryers do not kill coronavirus. The best way to protect yourself and others from the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

Myth 9. Coronaviruses are just a mutated form of the common cold.

False. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, all of which have spiky proteins on their surface. Some of these viruses use humans as their primary host and cause the common cold. Other coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, primarily infect animals.

Both Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) began in animals and passed into humans.

Myth 10. You have to be with someone for 10 minutes to catch the virus.

False. The longer someone is with an infected person, the more likely they are to catch the virus, but it is still possible to catch it in less than 10 minutes.

Myth 11. Rinsing the nose with saline protects against coronavirus.

False. There is no evidence that a saline nose rinse protects against respiratory infections. Some research suggests that this technique might reduce the symptoms of acute upper respiratory tract infections, but scientists have not found that it can reduce the risk of infection.

Myth 12. Antibiotics kill coronavirus.

False. Antibiotics kill bacteria; they do not kill viruses.

Myth 13. Thermal scanners can diagnose coronavirus

False. Thermal scanners can detect whether someone has a fever. However, other conditions, such as seasonal flu, can also produc fever.

In addition, symptoms of COVID-19 can appear two to 10 days after infection, which means that someone infected with the virus could have a normal temperature for a few days before a fever begins.

Myth 14. Garlic protects against coronaviruses.

False. Some research suggests that garlic might have antibiotic properties. However, there is no evidence that it can protect people against COVID-19.

Myth 15. Home remedies can cure and protect against COVID-19.

False. No home remedies can protect against COVID-19, including vitamin C, essential oils, silver colloid, sesame oil, garlic and sipping water every 15 minutes. The best approach is to adopt a good hand washing regimen and to avoid places where there may be unwell people.

Myth 16. You can catch coronavirus from eating Chinese food in the U.S.

No, you cannot.

Myth 17. The virus will die off when temperatures rise in the spring.

We don’t know. Some viruses, such as cold and flu viruses, do spread more easily in the colder months, but that does not mean that they stop entirely when conditions become milder. As it stands, scientists do not know how temperature changes will influence the behavior of SARS-CoV-2.

Myth 18. Coronavirus is the deadliest virus known to man.

False. Although SARS-CoV-2 does appear to be more serious than influenza, it is not the deadliest virus that people have faced. Others, such as Ebola, have higher mortality rates.

Myth 19. Flu and pneumonia vaccines protect against COVID-19.

False. As SARS-CoV-2 is different from other viruses, no existing vaccines protect against infection.

Myth 20. The virus originated in a laboratory in China

False. Despite the swathes of internet rumors, there is no evidence that this is the case. Some researchers believe that the virus may have jumped from pangolins to humans. Others think that it might have passed to us from bats, which was the case for SARS.

Myth 21. Flu and pneumonia vaccines protect against COVID-19.

False. As SARS-CoV-2 is different from other viruses, no existing vaccines protect against infection.

How to Combat Spread of the Virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these simple measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2:

  • Avoid close contact with people who seem sick.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • Sneeze into a tissue, then throw it in the trash.
  • If there are no tissues at hand, sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
  • Use standard cleaning sprays and wipes to disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds.

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